RU Crew, it’s confession time. Are you terrified to pitch a book to an editor or an agent? If so, you’ve come to the right place for help. Today we welcome author Dee J. Adams to Romance University.
Take it away, Dee!
Are you ready to pitch your book, but scared to face the agent or editor who’s ready to listen? Itching to Pitch will help even the most terrified writer come to grips with the art of pitching and give them the confidence to help sell their book.
Raise your hand if you want to sell your book(s) but are afraid to face an agent or editor? From experience, I’m guessing there are a few of you with your hands raised.
Fear no longer, I say! Agents and editors are people too. Remember that when you sit down across from one or meet up with one in an elevator or a bar at a conference. In a nutshell… they want you. They want to buy your book and they want to like you and your story. Don’t make it hard for them.
You can have the most innovative story ever written, but if you can’t look that person across from you in the eye and pitch your story with life, the chances drop of getting a request.
We have to deal with being nervous. It’s part of the process. Don’t fight it. You won’t win. Accept it. Learn to deal with it. (Actually, that mantra is pretty solid for anything in life. With acceptance comes a certain freedom, because now instead of living in some sort of denial or fear, you can go forward.)
My point is… it’s okay to be nervous. Admit it. Look in the mirror and say, “Okay, I’m nervous. Deal with it.” Then go kick some pitching butt. Don’t confuse nerves with fear. They are two completely different things. With fear comes feelings of inadequacy. Who needs that? You are worthy. It couldn’t hurt to look in the mirror and say that a few times out loud. Seriously. YOU ARE WORTHY. YOUR STORY IS WORTHY.
First and foremost. Relax. Take a deep breath and take it easy. They know it’s stressful, you know it’s stressful. You need to remember that these editors and agents are here because they want to buy books. (Most of the time.) They want to like you. They also want you to wow them. This is your chance to wow them. You want to sell your book; then you have to sell yourself.
Wear something better than jeans and sneakers. First impressions are important. Show that this time matters to you. Wear something that says I’m serious. I’m here for business.
Walk in with confidence:
Head high. Shoulders back. Be in charge. Don’t be a shrinking violet. Be who you have to be if that’s what it’s going to take to sell your book.
If you’re like my husband and you think you have a crooked smile, then give a toothless grin. It’s about being pleasant.
Give a strong handshake – even if they don’t. (This might be the most important.)
“Hello, my name is…” Let them feel your power. Sound stupid? It’s not. Given a choice… would you rather shake a limp hand or a firm hand? I’ll be honest… if there’s one other thing I’d like you to take from this besides learning to pitch, it’s learning the power of a solid handshake. In a nutshell, it shows them you’re strong. That goes a long way in showing them your personality. Don’t be afraid to be firm and confident.
Project. Be heard. You’ve got 6, 8, 10 minutes at Nationals. Don’t waste it by having them say, “What? What did you say?” Be clear and concise.
They’re people too. They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you. Think of something – anything – that will put you on the same mental ground as the person across from you.
Make sure you’ve practiced your pitch in the mirror:
Look at yourself; get used to it, because you’re going to be experiencing those same feelings when you’ve got an agent or editor staring at you.
State your credentials:
You’ve been a member of RWA – or any writer’s organization – for X amount of years and you’ve finaled in X amount of contests. Keep this short. You want to get to the pitch.
During the pitch:
Use index cards. It’s legal. I’ve always used them and I always will. You need to stay on track and stay concise. Don’t ramble off into a part of your story that isn’t necessary. They’d rather see you get the important information in, rather than stumble without a guideline.
I use a five card system. The first card should give the genre, word count and target line. The second is the heroine card. Give her goal, motivation and conflict. The third is the hero card, which gives his goal, motivation and conflict. The fourth card gives the turning points or highlights of the book and usually contains any external/internal conflict. The fifth is the resolution card. How does the story wrap up? All this should take about three minutes, max.
I’ll be honest… I have heard of stories where agents or editors have actually made people put their cards away. Don’t be scared. Here’s the deal. The cards are a guideline. You know your book, right? The cards are to stay on track. I don’t want you to sit down and read from the cards verbatim and neither do the people sitting across from you. It’s important to keep that eye contact when you pitch because you need to read the person you’re pitching to.
Is this a tall order? Pft. No. You can do it because you know your book and you’re excited about it. In turn, you want them to be excited about it. It’s not a crime to be animated when you pitch.
But back to someone who says “ditch the cards.” My response to that would be… “You know what? I’m more comfortable holding them so I stay on track and give you the most concise pitch I can. I’m nervous and I wouldn’t want to skip something important because I got off track.” It’s just plain honesty. There is nothing wrong with that. I would think that would get more respect then tossing your cards and ending up forgetting something important. Or going off on a ramble.
Don’t let the bad experiences color you future. They are rare. The good thing about them is they teach you strength and the ability to think on your feet. They also teach what you want and don’t want in a working relationship.
Good luck and good pitching!
RU Crew, do you have a pitch experience you’d like to share? We always love the real-life adventures!
Thank you to Dee, one of my fabulous Carina sisters, for being with us today. Join us on Friday when Theresa Stevens returns with another installment of Ask An Editor.
Bio – Born in El Paso, Texas, Dee J. always had a wild imagination. After graduating high school, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. Her longest-running success was a series of Tide commercials in the late ’90s. For twenty years, she acted in television before transitioning behind the scenes as an acting/dialogue coach for sitcoms.
Writing happened accidentally after a vivid dream and the urging of her husband to “just write it down.” Three weeks, fourteen hours a day, and four hundred and fifty (longhand) pages later, she had her first novel. Dee J. loves writing books filled with action, mystery and love. (Not necessarily in that order.) Her debut novel, Dangerous Race, was released by Carina Press on September 5th, 2011. Danger Zone, the second book in her Adrenaline Highs Series, will be a February 20th, 2012 release, also through Carina Press. Dee J. can be found on FaceBook – Twitter and her website at http://www.deejadams.com/. She is the wife of a wonderful man and mother to a fabulous daughter. She’s a dog lover all the way—due in part to a deathly allergy to cats—with a fondness towards boxers and pit bulls. She is a member of several organizations, including Romance Writers of America, Los Angeles Romance Authors, Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
- CTW: Pitching Strikes
- Four Key Elements Every Pitch Needs
- Developing Your Pitch – Part One
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for October 17 – 21, 2011
- Perseverance by Dee J. Adams